Cape Coral mom wants to competitively run race with disabled daughter

CREATED Feb 23, 2014

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CAPE CORAL, Fla. - For one Cape Coral mom, competitive running is a team sport.

Charyse Smith pushes her seven-year-old daughter Kayla in a jogging stroller while she runs. It's a special time for Kayla, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

"I love running," Smith said. "Kayla is never going to be able to do that so I want her to be able to experience it with me as much as she can and she loves it."

Smith started competing in and winning local 5K races with Kayla.

"She loves everyone cheering us on and the trophies. The whole experience, it's just awesome," Smith said.

Their next goal was to win the Hooters Half Marathon, but race rules only allow runners pushing joggers to race in a non-competitive way.

"Our general policy is that we don't encourage people to run with joggers or strollers because of insurance liability issues, so rather than prohibiting them all together we ask that you start at the back of the pack," Kim Bocelli, Vice President of the Fort Myers Track Club, said.

The Fort Myers Track Club puts on the race and says since the race course is challenging and more crowded than other races, safety comes first. 

"Our job is to look at all thousand plus registrants. We can't just look at one person. We would like to accommodate everybody and we will do everything we can to accommodate everybody but we have to be safe," Bocelli said.

Bocelli says the club is following national safety guidelines and breaking them would put the club, which is a non-profit, at even an even greater liability risk.

But Smith says she has started other races at the front of the pack and hasn't had any problems.

"I do have a game plan. I am always looking in front of me, always looking at my front tire and I have a voice, I have used it many times," Smith said.

Smith says she doesn't want to compete unless she and Kayla can give it their all.

"I don't jog or run slow," Smith said. "When I do these races I try and run as fast as I can. I try to win or get close to it with or without Kayla. It's just my nature, I like to compete."

The Fort Myers Track Club says another option is to see if they can let Smith and Kayla start the race ahead of the other runners, but they would not be eligible for the same awards as other runners.

Smith says she has decided not to run the race.

The race benefits the Moffitt Cancer Center and Golisano Children's Hospital.